Dance Iquail Brings Black Swan Back to Philadelphia

Work Exploring the Black Ballerina Using the Music
of Artist and Activist Nina Simone Runs
February 22-23

Hometown choreographer Iquail Shaheed brings his company back and returns to an iconic piece about the black ballerina. Dance Iquail presents Black Swan, a 90-minute dance-based production choreographed to the music of artist and activist Nina Simone. Black Swan runs February 22-23 at the Performance Garage, 1515 Brandywine Street. Tickets cost $15-$40 and are available on the website of the Performance Garage at More information on Dance Iquail can be found at

Black Swan explores the experience of the black ballerina as a window into issues of race, identity and isolation, incorporating elements of performance art to investigate these psychological tensions. Matt Hanson from BroadwayWorld.Com said, “one of the most diversely expressive dance performances on stage today, arguably ever.”  The performance includes graphic language and nudity.  There will be additional performances by En L’air Dance Company of Philadelphia.

Shaheed began creating the piece in 2015. It premiered in Philadelphia in 2017.  “Black Swan came out of my desire to create a new work for some new black women in the company. I was also interested in creating a work that would be a tribute to Nina Simone. When I looked at both ideas more closely, both my dancers and Nina Simone had this narrative of trying to navigate a highly white society – Nina Simone in classical music and my dancers in American concert dance, “ he explains.  “I wanted to ask questions of their experiences as dancers. I wanted to highlight their stories on stage but also wanted to showcase their talent and beauty.”

The cast in this performance includes: Eylse Browning, Jhelan Gordon, Tunai Jones, Ari Mayzick and Allison Sale. Iquail Shaheed is the Director and Choreographer. Jermaine Terry is the Costume Designer. Michael Jarrett is the Lighting Designer. Daniel Carlton is the Dramaturg.

Shaheed hopes this work provokes discussion.  “I want this work to disrupt the idea that all Black women are the same. I want audiences to question how they see race relations in our every day lives. This work isn’t endeavoring to answer questions, but it is making the audience begin to ask them,” he said.

He finishes, “The work celebrates the versatility of black female dancers. When people come, I want them to let go of wanting the work to tell them direct things. I want them to ask, ‘do they contribute to these experiences that hold black women marginalized?’”

About Iquail Shaheed
Hailed in reviews as “a perfect example of his generation of male dancers… Technically superb and artistically infallible,” Iquail Shaheed is the founder and executive artistic director of Dance Iquail.  As a native of Philadelphia, he began training at the age of thirteen upon acceptance to the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts. He furthered his dance studies with at the Philadelphia Dance Company (Philadanco), Pennsylvania Ballet and Gwendolyn Bye Dance Center.

As a professional dancer, Iquail has worked with internationally acclaimed companies such as Compagnie Thor (Brussels), Sean Curran Company, Ronald K Brown/ Evidence, and the Fred Benjamin Dance Company. He has also appeared in various Broadway productions including The Lion King, Hot Feet and Super Fly, in addition to credits in Motion Pictures, Television and Print.   As a teacher, Shaheed is driven by his passion and commitment to preserving the Horton Technique. Currently Mr. Shaheed serves on faculty at The Ailey School, NAISDA Dance College in Australia, while concurrently serving as assistant professor of dance at Goucher College. Additionally, he is frequently engaged as master teacher at institutions throughout Europe, Africa, Australia North America, and the Caribbean.  Among his many honors are grants from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Samuel S. Fels Foundation, the West Harlem Development Corporation. He is also the recipient of The Caroline H. Newhouse Award, the Suzanne and Larry Engman Award, Philadelphia Dance Award – The Rocky, and the Marion D. Cuyjet Award.   Mr. Shaheed received his training as a scholarship student at many prestigious schools including the Philadelphia Dance Company – Philadanco, Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, The Martha Graham Center for Contemporary Dance, the Paul Taylor School, The Juilliard School, Jacob’s Pillow, and Pennsylvania Ballet, among many others. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in ballet performance from the University of the Arts; a Master of Fine Arts degree in Choreography from Purchase College – SUNY; and is a candidate for the degree Doctorate of Philosophy in Dance at Texas Woman’s University.

About Dance Iquail

Dance Iquail is a 21st century cutting edge dance company that was birthed to not only educate and empower talented dancers and the audience alike, but also to bring positive influence to inner-city youth through education and community awareness.

Dance Iquail seeks to enhance the level of appreciation of dance in a spirit of excellence by embracing and pushing the talents of deserving, yet under-recognized dance artists. Founder, Iquail, experienced the injustice and politics in dance during his youth, and decided to make a stand by forming a company that would not only break such cultural and ethnic barriers, but also provide window of countless opportunities for aspiring dancers to be employed in a stable and secure environment.

Steering inner city youth in a positive direction is Dance Iquail’s most passionate pursuit. The company offers a place of purity and nurturing for inspiring young dancers to be taught not only the fundamentals of dance but instills discipline and other virtues possessed by model citizens. This process is accomplished with the multi-talented teachers and choreographers that work within this organization.

Dance Iquail shows these youth how to channel the negativity that surrounds them daily, into a world of innovation and creativity through thought-provoking performances. Dance Iquail gives the inner-city youth a true voice through the art of dance. Dance Iquail is very fortunate to have such a creative and passionate founder at the helm.

 The company, being named for how one would speak with enthusiasm when seeing Iquail himself dance, have the privilege of learning firsthand from this credibly acclaimed, international teacher. Iquail is not only scholastically trained but is a very versatile performer himself. He has experience on Broadway, and in operas, concert dance, movies, television and print. Our founder is securing his legacy through this company and will not only be appreciated for his selflessness as an artist but will be celebrated for his willingness and devotion to share what he has learned, one community at a time.

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